The Trouble with Chris Brown (2011)
by dream hampton
This morning Robin Roberts from Good Morning America interviewed Chris Brown, who is on a promotional tour in support of his new album, F.A.M.E. During the interview, she asked Brown questions about his attack of pop star Rihanna, which enraged the singer. He apparently threw a tantrum, smashing soundproof windows at the ABC studio and soliciting building security's attention. He then stripped to his shirt, stormed from the building and logged on for a two-tweet Twitter tirade.
At the 2007 MTV Awards I became a fan of 18-year-old Chris Brown. He gave an epic performance that began with a nod to master mime Charlie Chaplin and ended with an homage to the King of Pop. Brown lip-synched most of his seven-minute spectacle, but what he proved that night was that he is a prodigious entertainer. When they turned his mic on he sang well-crafted R&B songs in a serviceable, throaty falsetto, but, my God, the boy could dance. He was as athletic as the Nicholas Brothers (his favorite crowd pleaser is a series of back flips), but as tall and as seemingly weightless as Michael Jackson. He leaped along the guest tables that night, ending up on Diddy's, who openly bowed to him when he finished. That night he invited his then 19-year-old girlfriend Rihanna onstage to sing a few bars of her huge pop hit “Umbrella.” They were absolutely adorable, their eyes aglow with young love. They appeared publicly and affectionately for the next year and half, supporting one another as they navigated the wilds of new fame at impossibly young ages.
And then, on February 7, 2009, Chris Brown violently attacked Rihanna, beating her and threatening he'd kill her. He left her on a sidewalk in the middle of the night in L.A.'s upscale Hancock Park, where a resident called the police. They photographed the beautiful Cover Girl spokewoman's fresh wounds and then leaked them to the hungry press. Within hours the world witnessed the brutality of his domestic violence.
I am not objective when it comes to domestic violence. I am against it. I ceased being a Chris Brown fan. I read my Twitter timeline and listened to urban radio in horror as they typically assigned blame, partial or otherwise, to the victim, Rihanna. Rihanna, of course, did an Oprah-style recount with Diane Sawyer. Brown wore a regrettable blue bowtie to Larry King, where he hedged a public apology without taking complete responsibility for his actions. Then, disastrously, he released an album six months later and publicly whined (on Twitter) when, to his surprise, the public hadn't "moved on" from his attack of Rihanna. Major box-store chains refused to even stock the album.
What he didn't seem to understand was that it was way too early for an album. Not only had we not moved on, but Rihanna had barely healed from the emotional trauma (when she attempted an even march forward on her ABC special it only further belied her fragility). Just as important, and I don't always consider attackers just as important in domestic abuse cases, Chris Brown had clearly not even begun to heal. Early in his career, teenage Chris Brown gave a heart-wrenching interview where he said watching his stepfather beat his mother had made him both so enraged he wanted to fight the man and so afraid of him that he'd wet his pants. When 16-year-old Chris Brown said in a magazine interview that he'd wet his pants at 13 he was a mere three years away from his abuse. Children who witness abuse are abused. When Brown abused Rihanna he was five years away from his own abuse.
He clearly doesn't have the kind of support system that is encouraging—even insisting—him to seek mental health treatment. His mother is an enabler, and his handlers huddled him into a truck the night he boxed in Rihanna's face, leaving her to fend for herself—an incredible misstep. Even if they hated Rihanna, they had to know leaving her there would lead to a publicity Chernobyl. These handlers were twice his age.
In lieu of therapy, Chris Brown has Twitter. His small army of fans uses the hashtag #teambreezy to avoid forcing the still young, imploding star to seek the therapy he so desperately needs to not become his stepfather. It is tragic. He's young enough to be saved. Imagine what a true public healing would do for young Black teenagers entangled in the deadly dance that is domestic violence.